KCSO may drop Boy Scouts charter

Sheriff says group promotes lifestyle in violation of state law

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In this Feb. 4, photo provided by the family, Wes Comer holds the Boy Scout uniform of his son, Isaiah, outside their home in Knoxville, Tenn. Comer, whose family attends an Apostolic Pentecostal church which considers homosexuality sinful, had been wrestling with whether to pull his eldest son out of the Scouts if the no-gays policy was abandoned.

COEUR d'ALENE - The Kootenai County Sheriff said Friday that he is compelled to drop the department's Boy Scouts of America charter because the organization is promoting a lifestyle that is against state law.

"It would be inappropriate for the sheriff's office to sponsor an organization that is promoting a lifestyle that is in violation of state law," Sheriff Ben Wolfinger said.

Sodomy is against the law in Idaho, he added.

"I have talked with Chris Peterson about this and sent him a copy of the law," Wolfinger said.

Peterson, who works in the Hayden office of the Inland Northwest Council of Boy Scouts, could not be reached for comment on Friday, and Tim McCandless, CEO of the Inland Northwest Council, said he wanted to talk with the sheriff before commenting specifically to his concerns.

"I would encourage you to read the resolution that was passed, however." McCandless said. "Sodomy is not allowed in scouting and is not an issue in this discussion."

Boy Scouts of America voted to open its ranks to openly gay boys on Thursday during the National Council's annual meeting at a conference center not far from Boy Scout headquarters in suburban Dallas. Of the roughly 1,400 voting members of the council who cast ballots, 61 percent supported the proposal drafted by the governing Executive Committee. The policy change takes effect Jan. 1.

In the resolution that was passed, it states: "Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting"

While the National Council said the ban on openly gay adult leaders is still in effect, Wolfinger said media reports indicate that the Boy Scouts will eventually lift that ban as well.

"It's in USA Today, this just opens the door to having openly gay scout leaders," he added.

The Inland Northwest Council addressed that issue in a statement released on Thursday: "A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration; thus, the policy for adults remains in place ... As the National Executive Committee just completed a lengthy review process, there are no plans for further review on this matter."

McCandless was quoted in the same statement saying: "While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. I believe good people can disagree and still work together to accomplish great things for youth."

The Associated Press reported Friday that out of the more than 100,000 Scouting units in the U.S., 70 percent are chartered by religious institutions.

Those include liberal churches opposed to any ban on gays, but some of the largest sponsors are relatively conservative denominations that have previously supported the broad ban - notably the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Southern Baptist churches.

The Utah-based Mormon church - which has more Scouting troops than any other religious denomination - reacted positively.

"We trust that BSA will implement and administer the approved policy in an appropriate and effective manner," an LDS statement said.

Utah's largest Boy Scout councils supported the change.

"This is a win for youth and a win for the community," said John Gailey, spokesman for the Utah National Parks Council, which covers central and southern Utah. "It gives all youth the opportunity to take advantage of the values instilled by Scouting."

The National Catholic Committee on Scouting responded cautiously, saying it would assess the possible effect of the change on Catholic-sponsored Scout units.

- The Associated Press contributed to this story

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